Lets Explore the Story Behind Pennsylvania’s Kindest Holiday

In January 2003, the United States lost its most well-known and cherished neighbor. Many kids who grew up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” felt that the passing of Fred Rogers marked the end of a special time.

His impact continues to be felt through the re-airing of his show and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College in his hometown of Latrobe, PA. However, there is another way that Rogers continues to make a lasting impression: 1-4-3 Day is Pennsylvania’s kindest holiday.

What does the numbers 1-4-3 mean? The number of letters in the phrase “I love you” is 3, and 1-4-3 is a code that Rogers used to express “I love you” throughout his life. In 2019, the former Governor Tom Wolf declared May 23rd as “the 143rd day of the year” and named it 1-4-3 Day to honor Rogers.

“1-4-3 Day is a special day where we think about being kind to each other and showing gratitude to the people in our communities,” says Dana Winters, Ph.D., who is in charge of Simple Interactions and Academic Programs at the Fred Rogers Center.

In the past, 1-4-3 Day was celebrated on one specific day. This year, there are activities happening throughout the entire weekend. Pennsylvania is asking people to use the hashtag #143DayinPA on social media to share their good deeds. If you need assistance, you can visit the 1-4-3 Day website. They have a “kindness generator” that provides suggestions for kind actions, such as giving someone a genuine compliment or video chatting with individuals who live alone. If you want, you can make your own thank you cards for health care workers, teachers, and other people. Then you can print them out. The website states that if all 12.8 million residents of Pennsylvania participated, we would see a significant change in the real world.

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According to Winters, Rogers believed that kindness is more than just being nice to people. Rogers believes in the importance of being a good neighbor and building a strong community by helping and supporting each other. According to Winters, the word ‘kindness’ comes from the word ‘kin’, which means family. Rogers wanted us to think of the people in our community as if they were our own family, instead of treating them like strangers.

Because of COVID-19, Pennsylvania is not fully open yet. As a result, the activities will mainly focus on Latrobe and the closest big city, Pittsburgh. The Fred Rogers Center will work together with the LaTrobe Art Center, which was started by Fred Rogers’ sister, Nancy Rogers Crozier, for a Week of Kindness from May 23 to May 29. This week, the LaTrobe Art Center is offering cards that say “You’ve been Fred Rogers-ed.” On 1-4-3 Day, when someone from Pennsylvania does something nice for someone else, they can give them a card.

One-four-three Day is also special in Pittsburgh. Rogers was raised in Latrobe, which is located about one hour east of Pittsburgh. However, he spent the majority of his adult life living in Pittsburgh. “In Pittsburgh, we call him our favorite neighbor, of course,” says Winters.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh plans to open again in the middle of June. Unfortunately, it won’t be ready in time for 1-4-3 Day, but it will have an exhibit about kindness. The Kindness Gallery has various features, such as a “encouraging words Rolodex,” a “compliment response wall,” and a collection of animated puppets.

(You can also enjoy a lovely day in the neighborhoods that were important to Mr. Rogers, such as WQED Studios where his show was filmed, along the Fred Rogers Trail.)

The idea behind 1-4-3 Day is inspired by the message of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” a TV show that was on the air from 1968 to 2001 in both black-and-white and color. Rogers and the puppets from The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, like Daniel Tiger and Lady Elaine Fairchild, taught children about acceptance in ways that were easy for their age to understand.

Rogers used his show to introduce kids to a wider range of people than they might see on other TV shows. For instance, he would ask children with special needs, like a boy who uses a wheelchair, to come on the show. “He always tried to show the humanity in people,” says Winters. “We always deserve to be treated with kindness, humanity, and compassion.”

One-four-three On this day, we can also remember another special person: Mister Rogers’ wife, who was a concert pianist and passed away in 2018. Joanne Rogers strongly supported her husband’s message of kindness, but she did not idolize him. According to Winters, she would often encourage others to follow Fred Rogers’ example by saying, “We don’t need another Fred Rogers,” but rather, we all need to do our part.

No matter where you live or how you participate, now is a great time to contribute.

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